A Cordi Oâ€™Callaghan Mystery
DY I NG for murder Suzanne F. Kingsmill
here was someone in my car. There shouldn’t have been. It was 4:30 and most of the cars in the parking lot at the zoology building at Sussex University, where I work as an assistant professor, were gone for the day. I cautiously approached, then stopped dead as the rear lights flashed on and off and I heard the engine cough to life. Must be a friend, I thought, and immediately knew I was being ridiculous or deliberately blind. What friend borrows a car without asking and without keys? I stood glued to the spot as the car backed out. It was a man, but I couldn’t see his face easily because he was on the other side of the car and my eyesight stinks. All I could see was his profile. My brain finally alerted my body that something was amiss and that perhaps I should do something about it. There was also a distant rumbling that maybe I shouldn’t, maybe he had a gun or a knife or a can of mace, even a taser. But it was only a distant rumbling and I launched myself at the car, pounding on
Suzanne F. Kingsmill
the passenger window. That got him turning. I could see he was wearing a deep-maroon hoodie; faded, ripped jeans; and a crooked smile, which he flashed at me as he gave me the finger and stepped on the gas. That did it. I was damned if I was going to let him get away. I started sprinting after him as he turned down onto the main street close to the university. I could see the traffic building and knew I had a chance. Of course, what I’d do when I got to him I wasn’t quite sure, but I sprinted down the road after him anyway. I saw his taillights go red and sped up. I was thirty feet and closing when he suddenly swung right down a back lane. I couldn’t lose him, not with the valuable cargo in my car. When I reached the lane I skidded to a stop and eyeballed the situation. It was one of those lanes that divide the backsides of one row of houses from the other. My car was about fifteen feet away, its brake lights were on, and a massive moving van was blocking its way. I had him. I could see him looking back at me through my rear windshield, and this time I smiled. He responded by jerking my gears into reverse and stepping on the gas. I hadn’t been ready for that and the car barrelled down on me. I moved then, but not quite fast enough. The car brushed me and knocked me off my feet. With my face in the dirt, I turned and watched as my car careened down the lane, came to a screeching halt, ground the gears back into forward, and disappeared down an offshoot of the lane I was lying in. I got to my feet, feeling impotent and angry, and gingerly loped over to the fork in the road. My car was already at the end of it, pushing its way into traffic by sitting on its horn. My horn. My car. It occurred to me briefly that maybe my car and
Dying for Murder
what was in it weren’t worth it, but it was my car and he was stealing it. So I loped down the lane, my right side aching from the fall. When I reached the main street my hopes rose; there was lots of traffic. I scanned the cars ahead of me and there it was: my little Mini moving at about my speed. I ran faster, my heart catching up, until I was right behind him. Then he made his move. He floored it, jumped the curb, and raced along the sidewalk, pedestrians scattering like so many leaves in the wind as my car gained speed at an alarming rate. I guess he wasn’t a very good driver, or maybe he was actually scared of me because he swerved to miss a fire hydrant, lost control, and slalomed through the linen-covered outdoor tables of a little cafe. I saw the driver bail out just before the car took a one-way ticket to the recycling depot. The sound of crunching metal, breaking glass, and screaming people was overwhelmed by the horrendous crash of the car into the solid brick wall of the little restaurant. I stood transfixed, watching the car crumple into uselessness. I could see my thief running away from all the commotion. I almost ran after him but I was caught in a surreal moment as I watched my faithful little car burst into flames. It wasn’t so much the car that kept me standing there in disbelief. It was what had been in it. But I couldn’t dwell upon that now. It would have to wait.
Excerpted from Dying for Murder by Suzanne Kingsmill. Copyright © Dundurn Press, 2014. All rights reserved. Published by Dundurn Press (dun...